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Psychology of Everyday Things. Many so-called human errors and “machine misuse” are actually errors in design Designers help things work by providing a good conceptual model Designers decide on a range of users as the design audience

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psychology of everyday things

Psychology of Everyday Things

Many so-called human errors and “machine misuse” are actually errors in design

Designers help things work by providing a good conceptual model

Designers decide on a range of users as the design audience

But design is difficult for a variety of reasons that go beyond design

41 bc
41 BC
  • Head Goucho is tired of loosing to the Gauls

Win me theChariot Race

chariot race 40 b c
Chariot Race, 40 B.C.
  • Notice the aerodynamic efficiency of the faster chariot

Yes!!!

slide5
But, in maneuvering for positionon the turn, the DRIVER makes an error!!!

Or was it the DESIGNER???

Har, har…

Ooops…

early tractors

high center

of gravity

narrow

wheel base

Result

Early tractors
  • Original designTerrain
    • un-surfaced
    • rough
    • hilly
  • Used to be called “Driver’s Error”but
    • accidents now infrequent as designs now have low center of gravity, wider wheel bases
slide8
Lesson 1
    • Most failures of human-machine system are due to poor designs that don’t recognize peoples’ capabilities and fallibility's
    • This leads to apparent machine misuse and “human error”
  • Lesson 2
    • Good design always accounts for human capabilities.
psychopathology of everyday things
Psychopathology of everyday things
  • Typical frustrations
    • The engineer who founded DEC confessed at the annual meeting that he can’t figure out how to heat a cup of coffee in the company’s microwave oven
    • How many of you can program or use all aspects of your
      • digital watch?
      • VCR?
      • sewing machine?
      • washer and dryer?
      • stereo system (especially car ones)
      • unfamiliar water facets
other pathological examples
Other pathological examples:
  • Remote control from Leitz slide projector
    • How do you forward/reverse?
other pathological examples1
Other pathological examples:
  • Remote control from Leitz slide projector
  • Instruction manual:
    • short press: slide change forward
    • long press: slide change backward
other pathological examples2
Other pathological examples:
  • Amphitheater Louis-Laird in Sorbonne
    • beautiful room with murals on ceiling
      • but murals are right side up only for lecturer!
    • electric projection screen
      • controls in other room out of sight of screen!

control

room

still more pathological examples
Still more pathological examples
  • Modern telephone systems
    • standard number pad
    • two additional buttons * and #
  • Problem
    • many hidden functions
    • operations and outcome completely invisible
      • *72+number = call forward
        • can I remember that combination?
        • if I enter it, how do I know it caught?
        • how can I remember if my phone is still forwarded?
      • Ok, I’ll read the manual
        • but what does “call park” mean? what's a link?
        • where is that manual anyway?
still more pathological examples1

12:00

Canon

Fax-B320

Bubble Jet Facsimile

SHQ

ON LINE

PRINTER

INTERFACE

HS

HQ

PRINTER ERROR

PRINT MODE

PRINTER

<

>

1

2

3

CODED DIAL

/DIRECTORY

memory

trans

delayed

trans

delayed

polling

polling

V

^

01

02

03

04

4

5

6

confd

trans

relay

broadca

report

R

HOLD

05

06

07

08

7

8

9

+

D.T.

Tone

Pause

09

10

11

12

*

0

#

space

clear

13

14

15

16

Still more pathological examples
  • VCR’s, camcorders, fax machines, ...
    • most people learn only basic functions
    • some people refuse to go near them (sounds familiar?)
    • most functionality goes untouched
getting serious about design
Getting serious about design
  • World War II
    • invention of machines (airplanes, submarines...) that taxed people’s sensorimotor abilities to control them
    • even after high degree of training, frequent errors (often fatal) occurred
  • Example airplane errors:
    • if booster pump fails, turn on fuel valve within 3 seconds
      • test shows it took at least five seconds to actually do it!
    • Spitfire: narrow wheel base
      • easy to do violent uncontrolled ground loops which break undercarriage!
    • Altimeter gauges difficult to read
      • caused crashes when pilots believe they are at a certain altitude
  • Result
    • human factors became critically important
what s the altitude

As they increased beyond 10,000’

    • box indicated 10,000’ increment through color change

< 10,000’

> 10,000’

What’s the altitude?
  • Early days (< 1000’):
    • only one needle needed
  • As ceilings increased over 1000’
    • small needle added

0

9

1

2

8

7

3

6

4

5

a kind of tape altimeter
A kind of tape altimeter
  • Human factors test showed that this altimeter:
    • eliminated reading errors
    • was faster to read
  • But not in standard use! Why?

900

14000

000

15000

100

200

16000

300

Reference line

400

17000

500

600

18000

Independent

movement

harvard airplane world war ii
Harvard Airplane (World War II)
  • Undercarriage crashes
    • pilots landed without dropping undercarriage!
    • undercarriage warning horn
      • sounds if wheels up and power low (landing condition)
  • Stalls
    • plane airspeed drops too low to maintain lift
    • if occurs just before landing, will crash
  • Training
    • deliberately stall and recover
    • but sometimes similar to landing with undercarriage up
      • horn sounds, annoyance
    • installed “undercarriage horn cut-out button”

Oops! Now why did I do that?

the harvard control panel
The Harvard Control Panel

U/C horn

cut-out

button

  • Problem #1: Conditioned response
    • stall -> push button; therefore stimulus nullified
slide21

The Harvard Control Panel

The T-33 Control Panel

U/C horn

cut-out

button

Tip-tankjettisonbutton

  • Problem #2: Negative transfer
    • T-33’s: tip-tank jettison button in same location
the psychopathology of computers
The Psychopathology of computers
  • Britain has (had) a Motorway Communications System operating 40% of it’s highways
    • The system receives control information from Police
      • changes lane signs, direction signs, speed limits, etc
      • occurs on the motorway itself in real time
    • On December 10th 1976, police, using the system, failed to change the speed limit signs when fog descended
      • 34 vehicles crashed
      • 3 people were killed
      • 11 people were injured and trapped in their vehicles for several hours
      • motorway closed for 6.5 hours
some quotes
Some quotes
  • Police (at inquest)
    • “The system did not accept the instruction”
  • Dept of Transport (after examining computer activity logs)
    • “There is no evidence of technical failure”
  • Designers of system
    • after emphasizing that they have no responsibility for the system:
      • “We supplied it over 5 years ago and we have never been called to look at that problem”
  • The Coroner’s Court
    • after examining the evidence, claimed it was "operator error"
      • the police operator:

“failed to follow written instructions for entering the relevant data”

  • Where have we heard this before?

Not me!

example system problems and recommendations
Example system problems and recommendations
  • Input codes cryptic, error-prone
    • Example: XR300/1
      • “change (X) sign 300 on highway M5 (R) to code 1”
      • i.e. change particular sign to indicate fog condition
  • No feedback
    • operator entered command, no visible effect of what was actually done
  • Cryptic error messages
    • “Error code 7”
  • Teletype machine was old, text illegible
    • people could not see what they entered into system, or system’s reply
  • Operator overloaded with other chores
    • also handled radio and telephone traffic
other computer psychopathologies
Other computer psychopathologies
  • from InfoWorld, Dec ’86
    • “London—An inexperienced computer operator pressed the wrong key on a terminal in early December, causing chaos at the London Stock Exchange. The error at [the stockbrokers office] led to systems staff working through the night in an attempt to cure the problem”
other computer psychopathologies1
Other computer psychopathologies
  • from Science magazine
    • In 1988, the Soviet Union’s Phobos 1 satellite was lost on its way to Mars, when it went into a tumble from which it never recovered.“not long after the launch, a ground controller omitted a single letter in a series of digital commands sent to the spacecraft. And by malignant bad luck, that omission caused the code to be mistranslated in such a way as to trigger the [ROM] test sequence [that was intended to be used only during checkout of the spacecraft on the ground]”
the pc cup holder
The PC Cup Holder
  • A True (?) Story from a Novell NetWire SysOp

Caller: "Hello, is this Tech Support?"

Tech Rep: "Yes, it is. How may I help you?"

Caller: "The cup holder on my PC is broken and I am within my warranty period. How do I go about getting that fixed?"

Tech Rep: "I'm sorry, but did you say a cup holder?"

Caller: "Yes, it's attached to the front of my computer."

Tech Rep: "Please excuse me if I seem a bit stumped, it's because I am. Did you receive this as part of a promotional, at a trade show? How did you get this cup holder? Does it have any trademark on it?"

Caller: "It came with my computer, I don't know anything about a promotional. It just has '4X' on it."

  • At this point the Tech Rep had to mute the caller, because he couldn't stand it. The caller had been using the load drawer of the CD-ROMdrive as a cup holder, and snapped it off the drive.
inane dialog boxes what would you do
Inane Dialog Boxes - What would you do?

Umm, thanks for the warning,

but what should I do?

What happens when you cancel a cancelled operation?

Do I have any choice in this?

Uhhh… I give up on this one

inane dialog boxes
Inane Dialog Boxes
  • These are too good not to show
silly help
Silly Help

Midwest Microwave's online catalog

a few more i couldn t resist
A few more I couldn’t resist…

ClearCase, a source-code control system

from Rational Software